On standards – state car inspections

So I was waiting this afternoon for my annual Massachusetts State Safety and Emissions test. This is mandated by this state, as well as most others. The precise details of the test vary, but the mechanics are identical, using an industry (and government) standardized connector and protocol, OBD-II. Thanks to standards, consumers don’t have the following little scenario that played out in my head as I was waiting:

consumer: “I’m here to get my car inspected”
mechanic: “ok, which model car do you have?”
consumer: “The frobulator 9000, second edition, build number 29785, release 27, from yesterday”
mechanic: “ah, yes, I remember it well. Unfortunately, that’s ancient history at this point. Yea. Last night, we got this awesome idea that we’d rewrite the whole thing…but don’t worry, in a few years it’s gonna be awesome!”
consumer: “dude, I just want my car inspected…”

This is a scenario that plays out all too often in the Linux community. Not ubiquitously. There are many of us who understand the true value of longevity, standards, and consumer demand. But there are also many who are losing sight of how consumers actually work, and what they actually want. What they want is not a moving target, they want rigid “just works and I don’t care” as their modus operandi. Let’s hope we can get more of our very own OBD-II standards, defined as an entire industry through pragmatic agreement between everyone involved.


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